A New Zealand report on the value of including universal design in all new homes claims that it is more costly not to incorporate these features. It found that for $500 the design of most new builds could incorporate these user-friendly features. However, some designs could cost up to $8000, if they needed major changes, but costs could be avoided if the redesign was configured within the current footprint. The costings are for both materials and labour.
Their analysis was for the whole population because there are cost advantages for including UD features from the outset in all new homes. Today’s new house has a high likelihood of being occupied by a family that has disability or ageing present. This is in line with the landmark study by Smith, Rayer and Smith in 2008.
While this report does not quantify any cost savings to health budgets, it points out that there are savings to be made. For example, each fall at home has an average medical cost of more than $1000. Even if only 10% of falls were reduced, this would be a saving of $27m per year. These and other saved care costs further justify the requirement to have UD features in all new homes.
This is a very comprehensive report with cost calculations based on existing floor plans for new homes. They use the term User-Friendly in their reporting as this captures the concept that the features are beneficial for everyone.
The title of the 2011 study is Lifetime Housing – The value case. It was funded by Branz, the New Zealand building research body. It was referenced in the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines in the chapter on accessible housing. The WHO report claims it is 22% more cost efficient to include the features in all new builds.